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Broccoli pasta on plates with fork and napkin in the background
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(My Kid Loves) Broccoli Pasta

This easy but irresistible broccoli pasta recipe is a kid friendly meal that adults will love too! The secret is in sprinkling the pasta with gremolata, an Italian condiment made of chopped parsley, garlic, pine nuts and lemon zest. It adds a burst of flavor and texture, lending the dish freshness and complexity. The pasta gets showered with grated Pecorino cheese (or you could use Parmigiano), and I like to sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the adult portions. Don't be afraid of the anchovies in this recipe - they add delicious complexity but you won't really taste them (but feel free to omit them if you're feeding vegetarians). 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: broccoli pasta, broccoli recipe, easy broccoli pasta
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (2 tablespoons minced)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, 3 thinly sliced and 1 minced
  • 2-3 anchovy filets (to taste), rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds broccoli (about 1 large bunch), cut into small florets, stems peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 pound penne or other shaped pasta (gluten-free or regular)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • In the meantime, place the pine nuts in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
  • In the same skillet, add the olive oil, shallot, sliced garlic (reserve the minced garlic) and anchovies. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and garlic are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is lightly caramelized and tender, about 6 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and toss to coat. Remove the pan from the heat and keep warm.
  • Pile the parsley, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, and the reserved minced garlic clove on a cutting board. Season with salt and pepper. Chop everything together to make the gremolata—the parsley should be fairly well chopped.
  • Once the water reaches a boil, season it with salt and add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain.
  • Transfer the pasta to the skillet with the broccoli, along with ½ cup of the reserved cooking water. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the water is reduced and coats the pasta, about 1-2 minutes (add more of the water as needed if the dish looks dry). Remove the pan from the heat and add the gremolata, grated Pecorino, and 1-2 big glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve the pasta with additional Pecorino on the side. If you’d like, sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes.

Notes

Tips:
  • Chop the broccoli before cooking the shallots and garlic, since they go fast. Be sure to chop the florets nice and small so that they cook quickly.
  • Don’t toss those stems! Broccoli stems are deliciously mild and crunchy. Use your knife to slice away the tough outer skin, then chop the tender inner stem.
  • You can eat the leaves too! Broccoli leaves are delicious, with a flavor similar to baby kale. Throw them in!
  • Don’t be afraid of the anchovies in this dish, they lend an umami savoriness, but you won’t really taste them. That being said, you can always omit them if you must (or add more if you're a fan!).
  • The gremolata is what makes this dish, lending it vibrancy and texture. It's also awesome over roasted fish, chicken, braised meats, and/or vegetables. In my book, Build-a-Bowl, I sprinkle it over roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with goat cheese... SWOON!